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Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in fifth-set tie-break to win fifth Wimbledon title

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 14 Jul 2019
  • Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in five-hour Wimbledon title
  • Djokovic beat Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) in first deciding set tie-break played in a Wimbledon final
  • Djokovic ties Bjorn Borg's record of five Wimbledon titles
Novak Djokovic celebrates victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final (PA Sports)

Novak Djokovic claims his fifth Wimbledon title with five-set victory over Roger Federer.

Roger Federer was denied a ninth Wimbledon title by the stalwart Novak Djokovic as the world no. 1 successfully retained the gentlemen's singles trophy with a 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) victory over the 37-year-old Swiss.

The victory for Djokovic sees him tie Bjorn Borg's record of five Open Era Wimbledon titles.

For a brief, flaming moment, it seemed as if the darling of Centre Court was set for a stupendous, age-defying victory as he broke Djokovic and served for the match at 8-7 - but Djokovic showcased his extraordinary resilience and elasticity of body and mind once more to save two championship points and break back, closing out the victory in the first ever deciding set tie-break played in a Wimbledon final.

Two and a half hours into the final, Federer would have had every right to feel slightly aggrieved. He had denied Djokovic, arguably the greatest returner in the game, a single break point on his, Federer's serve; he had won a one-sided second set and held set point in the third; and yet he found himself trailing two sets to one, one away from his third defeat in a Wimbledon final to the man across the net.

Playing the same relentlessly attacking tennis which had secured him a four-set victory over one-time nemesis Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, the eight-time Wimbledon champion often looked the better player against a slightly sub-par Djokovic. 

The first break point of the match arrived in just Djokovic's second service game of the match after the Serb missed a backhand wide trying to avoid the Federer forehand, and although Djokovic saved it with a series of short slices to Federer's backhand which successfully tempted him to go for the inside-out forehand and miss, he had to work extremely hard to avoid going down an early break in a four-deuce, nine-minute game for 2-2. The defending champion would find himself pressed hard again at 4-5 serving to stay in the set as Federer played a pair of exquisite drop shots lead 0-30 but managed to hold despite being pegged back to deuce by a double fault; meanwhile, the hardest Federer had been pushed was going down 0-30 at 2-2.

Federer even retrieved an early mini-break Djokovic took for 3-1 in the subsequent tie-break, erasing a backhand error with a backhand winner, and took a mini-break lead himself with a forehand winner down the line on the seventh point consolidated by a service winner for 5-3. Yet the final four points of the set - and with it, the set - went to Djokovic with a pair of forehand errors from Federer making the difference.

After his relentless focus in the tie-break, Djokovic suddenly descended to a very human level, being broken to open the second set in a very sloppy game. After Federer consolidated to lead 2-0, Djokovic turned in an effort for the rest of the set that would have seen Nick Kyrgios fined by the authorities and tarred and feathered by the media, being broken twice more as he struck ten unforced errors to two winners and failed to return a single first serve of Federer's.

Having surged back to dominate the second set 6-1, Federer must have felt that he had the momentum coming into the third set, but neither man could gain more than the slightest 0-15 foot hold on each other's serve. Just as in the first set, Federer had opportunities as Djokovic served in the tenth game, even creating set point as he exposed a lack of depth on Djokovic's forehand with his own down-the-line approach shot and executed a superb backhand half-volley. But he put a cross-court forehand in the net and a smart body serve from Djokovic got the defending champion out of danger. And although Federer won a 25-shot rally with a backhand passing winner down the line for 0-15 at 5-6, he was allowed to play no further sigificant role in the game as Djokovic once again took the set to a tie-break.

The first set continued to repeat itself as Djokovic took an early mini-break, this time winning the very first point against Federer's serve thanks to a big return of serve forcing an error. Unlike the first set, however, Federer would have no opportunity to retrieve that mini-break. Djokovic had won seven straight points from 5-6, 0-15 to 3-0 in the tie-break before Federer got on the board, and he would never really look in danger as another erratic passage of play from Federer saw Djokovic take a two-sets-to-one lead.

Despite all the frustration of having been arguably the better player except for two errant, error-strewn tie-breaks, Federer once again surged back. This time, it was the fifth game of the set before he got the break, but a double fault from Djokovic for 15-30 opened the door and a correct challenge from Federer on a Djokovic baseline forehand which had been judged good saw him up 15-40. Djokovic couldn't find a first serve, nor an adequate response to Federer's second-serve return and the 37-year-old broke not once but twice to lead 5-2.

Djokovic finally earned, and converted, a break point on Federer's serve to retrieve one break, but he had left himself too much to do to avoid being taken to a fifth set.

In that fifth set, though, Djokovic's trademark brilliant returning seemed finally to have joined the party. After having taken the best part of four sets to earn a single break point, he saw two on Federer's serve at 1-2, and although Federer staved them off, two more arrived at 2-3 with the second converted with a superb backhand cross-court winner past the lunging Federer at net. 

It seemed like the body blow which would finally drive the air out of Federer's lungs. But Djokovic revived his opponent's chances with a sloppy game to consolidate and ended up being broken back for 3-4. Despite the chants of 'Roger, Roger' ringing around Centre Court, Djokovic regrouped swiftly to push hard on Federer's serve, getting to 15-30 as he anticipated the forehand drop shot Federer would play for the second point in a row and chasing it down with time and to spare to poke it down the line for a winner. But an unlucky net cord carried his ball out for 30-30 and two big serves saw Federer hold for 4-4.

Despite two superb backhand drop shots from Federer, shots he had not played at all for the first three hours and 40 minutes of the match, Djokovic held to dampen Federer's momentum and lead 5-4, leaving his opponent serving to stay in the match. A netted volley and a backhand similarly planted below the tape saw Djokovic just two points from the match at 30-30, but Federer defended the net superbly for game point and converted with a smart second serve to Djokovic's forehand.

Djokovic was once again two points from the match at 5-6, but Federer fended him off again with bold, aggressive play for 6-6. With both men needing only the slightest letdown in their opponent's play to claim the match, it became a question of who would blink first.

Surprisingly, it was not the 37-year-old Federer but his younger opponent. Federer recorded his easiest hold for some time at 6-7 when he opened the game with a pair of aces and held to to 15 with a forehand winner - and earned break point in the next game after a pair of forehand errors from Djokovic, converting with a forehand passing shot winner flicked cross-court.

Serving for the match at 8-7, Federer missed a forehand wildly for 0-15, but outlasted Djokovic for a forehand error and 15-15 and sent a pair of aces down the T to set up two championship points. A wide forehand squandered the first and Djokovic's own cross-court forehand passing shot erased the second, and a third straight point for Djokovic, forcing a forehand error from Federer, gave him break point - converted as Federer netted a forehand for 8-8.

Federer stopped the run of games against him with a solid hold for 9-9, and the prospect of Wimbledon's new rule mandating a tie-break at 12-12 in the deciding set began to loom large as Djokovic held impressively to 15 himself.

A Djokovic forehand driven wide for 30-30 at 10-10 offered a brief glimpse of opportunity, but Federer was unable to return the Serb's second serve and Djokovic promptly held as the match time ticked past four and a half hours, the toll being taken on all concerned showing clearly as umpire Damian Steiner incorrectly announced the score.

An 0-15 foothold on Federer's serve at 10-11 amounted to nothing as Djokovic netted a second-serve return two points later, with a lightning-quick serve and volley from Federer and a service winner wide seeing him level at 11-11.

Djokovic looked set for a businesslike hold to love at 11-11, but found himself dragged to deuce - and then to break point, twice, as Federer forehands grazed the outside of the lines. Both times, Djokovic's own bold play in the forecourt saved him, and he did his part to guarantee that 12-12 tie-break as he held.

Once again Federer played drop shots on consecutive points and the frustrating effect on Djokovic was clear as he took a swipe at the umpire;s chair and was warned for unsportsmanlike conduct. But Federer, cold as ice, held for 12-12.

Djokovic took the mini-break lead as his return scuppered Federer's serve and volley at 1-1, and won both points on his serve to lead 4-1. Not for the first time in the match, however, he slipped behind the baseline and took a painful tumble as Federer narrowed the gap to 2-4 with a forehand drop shot, and a smart second serve brought the Swiss star still closer for 3-4.

A backhand down the line winner from Djokovic gave him championship points at 6-3 - and a correct challenge gave him a second bite of the apple on the first. He converted as Federer shanked a forehand, and gave a broad, wry grin to his box. 

'I will try to forget,' Federer says after Sue Barker tells him it was a final that will always be remembered, getting a big laugh.

'It's quite unreal, to be honest, to be two match points down and come back, it was quite strange to play a tie-break at 12-12 too,' Djokovic said.

'Roger said he hopes he can give some other people to reason to believe they can do it at 37 years old, and I'm one of them.

'Back to being dad, I guess, as well!' he adds.

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Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in fifth-set tie-break to win fifth Wimbledon title

Novak Djokovic saves two championship points to beat Roger Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3) to win his fifth Wimbledon title, denying the 37-year-old Swiss in a match that lasted five hours and two minutes

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